7th May 1578

Massacre at the Battle of Spoiling Dyke

The first Sunday of May 1578 saw a bloody massacre carried out by the MacDonalds of Uist on the Clan MacLeod in revenge for a separate massacre conducted by the MacLeods on Eigg the previous year.

It has been claimed – and disputed – that in 1577 a group of MacLeod men were on Eigg where they became rather more interested in the local women than their menfolk were comfortable with. They cast the MacLeod men out into the strait that separates the north-west Highlands and Inner Hebrides from the Outer Hebrides. Fortunately for the MacLeods, but unfortunately for the locals on Eigg, they were rescued, and came back to exact their revenge.

Cave of Frances

The locals took refuge in the Cave of Frances, which still exists on Eigg’s south coast where, after several days’ searching, they were discovered. In a prevalent version of what happened next, the MacLeods got their revenge for having been cast adrift by building a fire at the mouth of a cave, such that nobody could escape, but allowing a waterfall to stifle the flames. Their aim was not to burn everyone alive, but to suffocate them by filling the cave with smoke. Almost 400 are said to have died.

Battle commences

Thus, in early May 1578, the Clan MacDonald of Uist approached Trumpan, on the Isle of Skye, in eight boats, under cover of a heavy fog and, finding the Clan MacLeod in the church there, they boarded up the exits and set it on fire. Only one girl is said to have escaped, who managed to alert other clan members, who were not in the burning church, before dying of her injuries.

A battle broke out between the MacDonalds of Uist and Clan MacLeod before the MacDonalds had a chance to escape the island, resulting in the death of almost every MacDonald on the battlefield. The bodies were buried on site and the church remains derelict. Lady Grange, who was kidnapped in Edinburgh and held hostage until her death is also buried at the site.



Other events that occured in May

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